SpellTower: Grammar Tetris

We all loved Tetris growing up, right? Maybe it was just me, but I could lose hours playing that classic game, dropping brick upon brick or waiting endlessly for that one super long one to complete a big block all at once. It sure was addictive, and I guess that’s why I haven’t been able to put down SpellTower since I bought it a few days ago.

Is the game reminiscent of Tetris? Definitely. But even better, it uses words to create your own blocks of varying sizes. Of course, there’s more to it than just that, so let’s get into everything after the jump.

Speak and Spell

It’s always weird to find out how people discover their apps. For example, I came across SpellTower on a design site of all places, where the author spoke about the great design of the game. After checking it out in the App Store, I saw exactly what she was talking about and picked it up for my own just to see if the gameplay was up to the same high standards.

There's a single player and multiplayer option.

There's a single player and multiplayer option.

Shortly therafter, I was hoping for some kind of SpellTower 12-step program to form to help me with my addiction. I was playing it at night. At breaks during the day. When I should be working. When I was stopped in traffic. Yup, it was definitely time to write a review.

The Concept

There are multiple game modes available in SpellTower, but they all come down to the same type of basic gameplay. You’re given a few rows of letters and you have to chain the letters together forming words using your finger. You can connect the letters up, down or diagonally, and the longer the word, the more surrounding letters will disappear as well. With each completed word, the overall stack grows taller, and when it reaches the top, game over.

You start with 100 blocks, and when you're done you can let the world know how good you've done.

You start with 100 blocks, and when you're done you can let the world know how good you've done.

There are a few other twists along the way as well. For example, blue tiles will pop up occasionally (usually with difficult letters such as J or Z), and if you utilize those in a word, the entire row parallel with the blue tile will clear. There are also black squares, similar to the black ones in a crossword puzzle, that you can eliminate by building a word around them.

Additionally, there are numbers in the corners of some letters, and you have to form a word that has the amount of letters designated by the number. So if there’s a 4 in the corner of a letter and you want to use it to form a word, you need to make a four-letter word. Oh, and throughout the entire game, you can never duplicate words, meaning it’s going to get harder and harder as it progresses.

Tower Traits

There are four different types of single-player games available: Tower mode, Puzzle Mode, ExPuzzle Mode and Rush Mode, and each one has its own levels of difficulty.

Rush mode turns up the heat.

Rush mode turns up the heat.

In Tower Mode, you start with 100 letters and build as many letters as possible. Puzzle Mode and ExPuzzle Mode are essentially the same thing; You’re given a set amount of letters, and with each completed word the letters stack up one more row — the main difference between the two is the level of difficulty. And with Rush Mode, you’re playing Puzzle mode, but with a timer. The rows stack up and you’d better keep up or lose.


Although I didn’t get a chance to test it out, there’s also a multiplayer option in the game as well. To play, just connect with a buddy via Bluetooth and then the two of you go at it. When you complete a word, tiles drop down on your opponent, and to show you where they’re at, a shadow appears in the background of your screen to show how high or low they are.

The nice bonus here with the multiplayer option is playing against anyone with an iOS device. That means iPad versus iPhone, iPod touch against iPad or whatever combination you want. There’s also a handicap option, meaning that if you know you’re playing a newbie, you can adjust the difficulty level accordingly.

Oh So Pretty

I’m not a designer, so I know that I’m probably using the wrong terms here, but the app has a midcentury modern vibe to it. The choice of colors, fonts and layout just screams 1950s to me, and it’s a very pleasing aesthetic as well.

Regular versus night mode.

Regular versus night mode.

Each mode has its own color scheme, and there’s also a complementing Night Mode as well. Similar to Dark Mode in Instapaper, the screen now shows darker colors, making it easier and less harsh on the eyes in the evening. I played it myself the other night while my son was going to bed, and the light didn’t bother him at all.

The Final Word

I love puzzle games, and this one fits all my criteria for a good iPhone game. It’s easy to play, quick to pick up and the interface is intuitive, requiring no directions. It’s the type of game you can play indefinitely as well, because it just doesn’t get old.

Is it worth your money? At $0.99 definitely, but even if it shot up to $4.99, it’s still worth it. Not only is the game fun to play, it’s beautiful to look at as well, making it about as perfect as can be. So should you buy it? Yes. And you should buy it right now.


A Tetris-like game with a crossword twist.